Bandwidth demands of radar and signals intelligence create pressure to refresh XMC and FMC mezzanine board standards

PRODUCT INTELLIGENCE, 26 March 2012. Embedded computing designers for demanding digital signal processing (DSP) subsystems in military embedded systems like radar, electronic warfare (EW), and signals intelligence (SIGINT), are making broad use of I/O mezzanine boards in the XMC and FMC form factors, yet engineers are worrying that tomorrow's applications -- and even some of today's -- are finding modern mezzanine modules inadequate for the task.

"We are running out of SerDes and LVDS connections down to the board," explains Marc Couture, director of product management at the Mercury Computer Systems microwaves and digital solutions segment in Salem, N.H. "We're starting to run out of pins." SerDes stands for serializer/deserializer, while LVDS stands for Low-voltage differential signaling.

XMC is short for Express Mezzanine Card, while FMC is short for FPGA Mezzanine Card. FPGA refers to programmable processor chips called field-programmable gate arrays. The XMC and FMC are decedents of the once-popular PCI Mezzanine Card (PMC), which has become inadequate for high-throughput DSP applications.

The PMC was designed to provide PCI I/O throughput in a small add-on board that enhanced economy and flexibility by providing standard I/O functionality. VME and PCI board manufacturers have been attracted to implementing I/O with mezzanine boards so they are not forced to redesign their products simply to change out the I/O. Systems designers can evolve their systems to meet growing throughput demands simply by adding different kinds of mezzanine boards.

The XMC version of the PMC adds high-speed switch fabric interconnects for today's VPX, CompactPCI, and other high-throughput single-board computers. The FMC, meanwhile, enables systems architectures to design-in FPGA-based I/O by providing direct links to the FPGA on the mezzanine card.

Until recently, XMC and FMC modules have been adequate for even some of the most demanding DSP applications, but some experts in the embedded computing industry are starting to wish for even more capability than the modern XMC and FMC mezzanine boards can offer.

"In the future there will be a need to refresh the XMC and FMC standards," explains Steve Edwards, chief technology officer for COTS solutions at the Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions segment in Ashburn, Va. "Applications these are fitting into today, like radar, EW, and SIGINT, are really driving data requirements and bandwidth."

Edwards uses an example of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance-Infrared (ARGUS-IR) program, which is under development at the BAE Systems Electronic Systems segment in Nashua, N.H. For this and other new persistent-surveillance systems, "there are huge amounts of I/O coming into the card."

Other factors in the embedded computing industry also are converging to drive the need for increased bandwidth in XMC and FMC modules. Edwards says the latest generations of analog-to-digital (A/D) and digital-to-analog (D/A) converters require fast serial interconnects.

"We are starting to run out of connectivity," Edwards says. "We have a need for a mezzanine card associated with FPGAs, but which has even more serial connections."

In addition, an anticipated transition to optical computing, which moves data throughout the system with optical fiber or free-space lasers instead of electrical cabling, is expected to ratchet-up the pressure on mezzanine board throughput.

"We keep trying to move more data," says David Pepper, product manager and technologist at GE Intelligent Platforms in Charlottesville, Va. I'm surprised we haven't had to adopt optics yet, but it will happen. You just won't be able to push the data over copper," says Pepper, who works out of the GE office in Huntsville, Ala.

It isn't only throughput needs that are driving needs to refresh XMC and FMC standards. Some designers worry about the reliability of the standard XMC connector when subjected to heavy levels of shock and vibration found in many aerospace and defense applications, explains Aaron Lindner, engineering manager at Extreme Engineering Solutions Inc. (X-ES) in Middleton, Wis.

Adds Mercury's Couture, "the XMC connector doesn't fare well with multiple re-insertions. You run down the MTBF [mean time between failures] every time you remove one of those things."

XMC and FMC mezzanine card manufacturers

4DSP Inc.
Reno, Nev.

AcQ InduCom
Oss, The Netherlands
+31 (0)412 641922

Acromag Inc.
Wixom, Mich.

Massy, France
+33 1 60 13 52 73

ADLINK Technology Inc.
New Taipei City, Taiwan

AdvancedIO Systems Inc.
Burnaby, British Columbia

Aitech Defense Systems Inc.
Chatsworth, Calif.

Alacron Inc.
Nashua, N.H.

Alpha Data
Edinburgh, Scotland
+44 131 558 2600

ALPHI Technology Corp.
Tempe, Ariz.

APC Technology
Stepney, Australia
+61 (8) 8363 0400

Astek Corp.
Colorado Springs, Colo.

Ballard Technology Inc.
Everett, Wash.

BittWare Inc.
Concord, N.H.

BVM Ltd.
Southampton, England
44 (0)1489 780144

Concurrent Technologies Inc.
Woburn, Mass.
1 781 933 5900

Connect Tech Inc.
Guelph, Ontario

CSP Inc.
Billerica, Mass.

Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions
Ashburn, Va.

Cyclone Microsystems
New Haven, Conn.

Dallas Logic Corp.
Plano, Texas

Data Device Corp. (DDC)
Bohemia, N.Y.

Data Patterns Pvt. Ltd.
Chennai, India
+91 44 2483 7460

Delphi Engineering Group Inc.
Costa Mesa, Calif.

DSS Networks Inc.
Lake Forest, Calif.

Dynamic Engineering
Santa Cruz, Calif.

Dynatem Inc.
Mission Viejo, Calif.

EKF Elektronik GmbH
Hamm, Germany
+49 (0)2381/6890-0

Elma Electronic Inc.
Fremont, Calif.
510 656-3400

Embedded Planet
Warrensville Heights, Ohio

Emerson Network Power Embedded Computing
Tempe, Ariz.

Engineering Design Team (EDT Inc.)
Beaverton, Ore.

Epiq Solutions
Schaumburg, Ill.

Excalibur Systems Inc.
Elmont, N.Y.

Extreme Engineering Solutions (X-ES)
Middleton, Wis.

Faster Technology LLC
Katy, Texas

Gateworks Corp.
San Luis Obispo, Calif.

GE Intelligent Platforms
Charlottesville, Va.

General Dynamics Canada
613 596-7000

General Standards Corp.
Huntsville, Ala.

GET Engineering Corp.
El Cajon, Calif.

Hilscher Gesellschaft für Systemautomation mbH
Hattersheim, Germany
+49 (0)6190 9907-0

Industrial Computers Inc.
Ann Arbor, Mich.

Industrial PC Inc.
Indianapolis, Ind.

Innovative Integration
Simi Valley, Calif.

Interface Concept
Quimper, France
+33 (0)2 98 57 30 30

Interphase Corp.
Plano, Texas
214) 654-5000

IOxOS Technologies
Gland, Switzerland
+41 (0)22 364 76 90

Kontron USA
Poway, Calif.

LeCroy Corp.
Chestnut Ridge, N.Y.

Lyrtech RD
Quebec City, Quebec

Mango DSP
Norwalk, Conn.

MEN Mikro Elektronik GmbH
Nürnberg, Germany
+49-911-99 33 5-0

Mercury Computer Systems Inc.
Chelmsford, Mass.

N.A.T. GmbH
Bonn, Germany
+49-228 965 864 0

Camarillo, Calif.

Nexus Technology Inc.
Nashua, N.H.

Nolam Embedded Systems Inc.
Haifa, Israel
972 54 54 22 803

North Atlantic Industries Inc.
Bohemia, N.Y.

One Stop Systems Inc.
Escondido, Calif.

PCI-Systems Inc.
Sunnyvale, Calif.

Pentek Inc.
Upper Saddle River, N.J.

Performance Technologies Inc. (PT)
Rochester, N.Y.

Pinnacle Data Systems Inc.
Groveport, Ohio

RadiSys Corp.
Hillsboro, Ore.

Rastergraf Inc.
Redmond, Ore.

Red Rock Technologies Inc.
Tempe, Ariz.

Robotic Systems Integration

RTD Embedded Technologies Inc.
State College, Pa.

Sabtech Industries Inc.
Yorba Linda, Calif.

SANBlaze Technology Inc.
Littleton, Mass.


Rochester, N.Y.

Sterling Electronic Design
Valencia, Calif.

Sundance Digital Signal Processing Inc.
Reno, Nev.

Symmetricom Inc.
San Jose, Calif.

Systerra Computer
Hannover, Germany
+49 (0)511 9666-737

Technobox Inc.
Lumberton, N.J.

TechSAT GmbH
Poing, Germany
+49 (8121) 703-0

Techway S.A.S
Courtaboeuf France
+33 (0)1 64 53 37 90

TEK Microsystems Inc.
Chelmsford, Mass.

TEWS Technologies GmbH
Halstenbek, Germany
+49 (0) 4101 4058 0

Themis Computer
Fremont, Calif.

Vigilant Products
Stuart, Fla.

Unitronix Pty Ltd
Cooranbong, Australia

Vadatech Inc.
Henderson, Nev.

Ann Arbor, Mich.

Hornsby, Australia
+61 2 9482 4000

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